Cultural Clash-a Labor Relation Epidemic at Shiowa Industries

Topics: Employment, Works council, Wage Pages: 12 (3793 words) Published: June 24, 2013
CASE STUDY TOPIC
Cultural Clash– A labor Relation Epidemic At Shiowa Industries

CASE STUDY QUESTION
1. Drawing on the typologies of cultural differences discussed in the tutorials, discuss why Showa Industries has experienced HR difficulties at its Hamburg plant. Why might managers have assumed Germany to have been a good “fit” for the company?

In the case of Shiowa Industries, HR difficulties stems mainly from the assumption that the similarities are without cultural differences, and believed that Shiowa's organizational culture can override national cultural differences, and that Shiowa's HR Practice, deployed in other South-East Asian countries, like China, where Shiowa has presence in, can be duplicated. Shiowa's management believed that the high levels of productivity which Shiowa achieves, particularly with its Western competitors, is partly a question of culture which reflects the inculcation of traditional Japanese values in its workers. This assumption resulted in the full export of their Japanese work values into the highly efficient German work culture (German unions, work councils and co-determination regulations[1]) without due consideration of what the differences might be, much less planning ahead to address them. Upon examining both countries’ cultural differences, the following factor differences were identified:-

1 Communication

English is the only common language used between the Japanese and the Germans, as it is not common practise to acquire the German language in Japan or vice versa. While the senior management might not have faced challenges communicating in the English language, the same can't be said about middle managers and production supervisors, whose English if often mediocre at best. In most cases, the Japanese will become nervous and withdraw from a conversation to avoid being embarrassed further[2]. This pose a serious problem in technology/knowledge transfer, understanding of rules and regulations, addressing and redressing personnel issues with the works council.

2 Social Culture

The polar difference in the social cultural aspects finds the Japanese socially polite and non-confrontational, whereas Germans can be brusque, curt, and sometimes to the extent of being rude, and in the process, creating communication barriers and tensions. The Japanese's reluctance to say no with clarity, finality and firmness often give rise to the situation of “You think you have grasped what the other party was saying but often you have not” is not uncommon.

3 Work Culture

The Japanese concept of lifetime employment (Ronald J. Gilson, 1997) and seniority wage system (Rüdiger Pieper, 1990) mould Japanese, in general, to be hard workers[3]. In some research, it was revealed that an average Japanese employee work 2150 hours per year. They work on evenings; weekends and usually only use half of their paid vacations. An average German employee work 1600 hours per year. They are known to take their paid holidays[4] for granted.

4 Specialism vs. Generalism

Japanese employees are mostly hired as generalists. This practice provided Japanese employers with a high degree of functionality and flexibility in the use of their human resources. Germans employees, especially technical staffs and skills tradesmen, follow a strong German artisan tradition. They perform their job duties and responsibilities defined by their job description and formal competency, and more often than not, reluctant to take up or refuse duties that are not encompassed by their job description and formal competency. Shiowa's managers might have assumed Germany to have been a good “fit” for the company due to the strong resemblance of both countries' economic organization, corporate structure and management practice[5]. Culturally, both countries share a common respect for authority and orderliness and sometimes sense of racial/ethnic superiority[6]. Economically, both countries rely heavily on their internal...

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[11] Codetermination in Germany is regulated by the Co-operative Management Law (1951), amended in 1976, and the Workers’ Committee Law (1952), amended in 1972. (Wikipedia)
[12] In Germany works council are restricted by “peace obligation”
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